Temporomandibular Joint: Jaw Pain? Physiotherapy Can Help.

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Physiotherapists are getting more referrals from dentists. However, many people are not aware that physiotherapy is capable of treating a wide range of symptoms caused by a dysfunction of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). Common symptoms are local jaw pain, clicking jaw, and muscle tension around the jaw.

Anatomy Of The Temporomandibular Joint

Temporomandibular Joint

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is a much more complex structure. This is when compared to our other joints in our body. This is because of the interaction between the disc and a good amount of muscles, ligaments, jaw, and skull bones. Furthermore, it is supplied by blood vessels and a large number of nerves, which makes it sensitive to pain.

What Can Cause A Temporomandibular Joint Problem?

TMJ dysfunction in this joint rarely occurs as a single symptom, but more often as multiple problems with overlapping symptoms. Usually, the pain, tension and degeneration are caused by anatomical features. However, pain can also occur after a period of teeth grinding and bite problems. It can even happen for having to open the mouth for a long period of time at the dentist. A history of trauma, such as a hit on the face or head, can also affect the jaw.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) can be affected by several factors. These include the position of our head, the cervical spine, the hyoid bone, and our posture. A specialised therapist will assess the TMJ together with its surrounding structures, the cervical spine, the shoulder girdle. The therapist will also analyse the posture of the patient. The tongue, mouth and facial functions will also be assessed. This is to get a clear view of the actual cause of the jaw pain or referred pain.

Depending on the diagnosis a physiotherapist has several treatment options. Treatment options include soft tissue release and trigger point therapy. This will help to decrease the tension of the jaw, facial and neck muscles. Mobilisation techniques to decrease pain and help the TMJ joint to move correctly can also be applied.

Advice on the right posture and home exercises are essential to strengthening the weakened muscles. This is also to assist on the right alignment. Most patients will experience an improvement with TMJ physiotherapy. Lasting improvement, however, will depend on staying in the right posture and being disciplined in doing the home exercises.

After knowing what are the causes of jaw pains and how physiotherapy can help, here is a short video that demonstrates the interaction between the lower jaw and the skull in the TMJ with an explanation on the possible causes of jaw pain.